Tuesday, September 28, 2021

ARC Review: The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo (9/28/21)

When Brother Edik finds Beatryce in a goat stall at the monastery of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing, she is very ill and curled up with a disagreeable goat named Answelica. After she is healthy again, Brother Edik comes to realize that Beatryce is the subject of a prophecy he once transcribed, and she is now being sought by the king for a mysterious and dangerous reason.  With Answelica as her unlikely traveling companion, Beatryce sets off into the woods and into the unknown, willing to meet the king - and her fate - face to face. 

When I first heard of this book, I saw it being compared to The Inquisitor's Tale, and I got really nervous. I didn't want it to be an anti-Catholic story, and I didn't want to be upset with Kate DiCamillo, whose books I generally like. Thankfully, this book is almost nothing like The Inquisitor's Tale in any way. 

The setting is somewhat medieval-inspired, though there isn't an explicit mention of a year, and there are some hints in the text that suggest the time period is left intentionally unclear. The monks in the story do seem to have a hierarchy that suggests they might be Catholic, but religion is not the focus of the book, and there is very little religious content in the story. I did think it was a bit of a stretch that a monk in dire circumstances such as some of the ones Brother Edik finds himself in would never think to pray, but other than that, the lack of religion worked better here than moral relativism worked in The Inquisitor's Tale

The story itself is everything readers expect from a Kate DiCamillo novel. There is a character on a quest, who is surrounded by a variety of helpful and quirky friends. The story has its own particulars, but it also has a universal message that can apply in many contexts. The story is also gentle, even in its scarier and more intense moments. It's an uplifting book that pays tribute to the power of friendship, and of reading, and of bravery. The illustrations are also top-notch; Sophie Blackall is one of my favorite artists, and the style she uses for this book is quite different, but very well-suited to the story.

We're still in the Mercy Watson/Bink & Gollie phase in my family, so it might be a while yet before we start on any DiCamillo novels. When we do, though, we have absolutely nothing to fear from The Beatryce Prophecy, which remains true to the standards set by DiCamillo's other beloved novels and makes no mention of any of the problematic themes that made The Inquisitor's Tale such a terrible disappointment.  

Candlewick Press provided me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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